Its been sometime since we last connected with Little Mosque on the Prairie’s Arlene Duncan, who has portayed the role of the vibrant and independant cafe owner, Fatema Dinssah.With the groundbreaking and daring yet highly comedic series drawing to an end tonight on CBC, its a suitable time to touch base with the actress to discuss her response to the conclusion and to ask her to reflect on some of her experiences over the course of its six seasons.
Read through my complete interview with the delightful actress below and be sure to tune in for the series finale of Little Mosque on the Prairie @ 8:30pm eastern standard time.
Abbas Karimjee: Since we last connected, it was announced that Little Mosque
will end in its current season.This season marks Little Mosque’s
final chapter. What was your reaction when you discovered this
and what are your thoughts on the degree to which it is suitable for the show
to end this year?
Arlene Duncan:It has been both an honor and a pleasure to be part of such a unique
and ground-breaking show for six seasons. Currently we are
viewed in over 90 countries around the world. Although the show
went through many changes in its six seasons, I’m happy to have
seen my character make it from the first shooting day to the end!
Obviously after this amount of time working with the same cast
and crew there was sadness when we learnt that the show would be
coming to an end. Actually we thought we would be ending after
the 5th season but when we heard we would be coming back again
for a 6th season it was an unexpected bonus!
The cast of Little Mosque share a toast as production for the show wraps[June 2011 in Toronto
AK: Could you please give us an idea as to the atmosphere which was present on the set throughout the final weeks on the show?
AD:The atmosphere shooting the final season was very bittersweet: all
good things must come to an end, it wasn’t a complete shock or a
surprise, and we were all prepared to go out with a bang. Still, after
an investment of six seasons into these wonderful characters, just
like our audiences around the world, we’ve become attached to
them. It’s hard to say goodbye and let go of both the relationships
and what they mean to us, fortunately they’ll continue to live on in
reruns and DVDs around the world! After we shot our final scene
together as a group, we all very un-Islamically opened a bottle of
champagne and toasted to our success—those who partake,
AK: What is the final season all leading up to? Could you please give
us an idea of what in store for the series finale itself, both for
Fatima and the show in general?
AD:By the time this is posted the season finale may have already aired,
but still I don’t want to spoil the ending for anyone. However, I
can say I think the ending should be a satisfying way to show the
journey of this community of Muslims and the people of Mercy to
the loyal viewers who have followed us from the beginning.
When the final credits roll, one can still imagine that life in Mercy and the lives of these characters will continue to go on: Rayaan &
Amaar’s life as a married couple, Sarah’s adventures in her new
role as a single woman, embracing her faith, Baber continuing to
rant, Fred spouting off on the radio, and Fatima dishing out goat
curry and wisecracks at the café.
AK: You have played Fatima for the show’s six seasons. Could you
please reflect on some of your most favorite moments on the show,
both on screen and in production? Reflecting on your six years
from working to the show, what aspect of working on the show,
will you miss the most?
AD:Although we did the majority of our shooting in Toronto (the
interiors were shot in a studio and the vicinity) and the exteriors in
Saskatchewan, we considered ourselves a Canadian show
representing the multicultural Canadian experience. What I’ll miss
most, besides having a steady gig for six seasons, and working
with our fantastic cast & crew, are the trips to Saskatchewan every
year to shoot exterior scenes. Our‘paid vacation time’ or ‘acting
camp’ as it was affectionately called was a fun-filled bonding
experience where we got to connect with each other as a cast & as
friends, as well as make friends within the Saskatchewan
community. These trips also helped me to ground my character in
the experience of what life would really be like as a Nigerian
immigrant in a small Saskatchewan town.
AK:You were recently involved in a musical theatre which made its
debut on January 23. Could you please indicate the
title of the project, where it was held,the storyline of the show and
other relevant details?
AD:Since the show finished shooting I have gone on to perform some
very different roles from Fatima in various films & television
shows, but I was most excited to get back to my roots in musical
theatre and play the lead role in the Tony-Award winning play
Caroline or Change. Set in 1963, Caroline Thibodeaux is a maid to
a Southern Jewish family who does what she must to provide for
children while struggling to keep her sense of self, while the son of
her employer struggles to make sense of the world around him. It
has been quite a while since I’d been ‘on the boards’ performing
live on stage night after night.
AK: How does working on a theatre production differ from working
on studio sets such as Little Mosque? Which type of acting do you
Playing eight shows a week takes a
very different discipline from working in television. There are no
re-takes in theatre and the objective is to give the audience an
‘opening night’ performance every night. I’m very happy to say
that thankfully our show was well received with a sell-out run. I’m
actually looking forward to getting back on the stage again!
AK:With Little Mosque ending, how do you hope Fatema will be remembered as and what final message do you have for viewers of the show?
With the luxury of six seasons on LMOTP I’ve learnt a great deal as
a performer, grown as an actor and a person and I’m sure to carry
all that I’ve learnt into my future roles. I’m very grateful that
audiences have embraced the character of Fatima Dinssa as their
friend, a sister, or a neighbour and I hope that her legacy will be
similar to that of LMOP: to show that in spite of our outward and
cultural differences at heart we are all the same…and that most
problems can be resolved with some good food!